Putting Manual by WilliamWetere


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									 New Zealand accredited PuttingZone teacher William Wetere and Geoff

Hi. This Manual on putting is really a quick and practical overview of the
most important points for putting at your best. I've included some drills in
each section that you might want to try on the practice green or at home
to get a deeper appreciation of the subtleties of this black art, golf's game
within a game.

And remember, "a golfer who can putt is a match for anyone."

The three fundamental skills for excellent putting are distance control
(touch), stroke control (technique), and putt reading (targeting). Then
there are special problems, practice, goals, and putter fitting.
      ·   Topic 1: Tempo and Touch - Distance Control
      ·   Topic 2: Stroke Technique - Roll 'em Straight
      ·   Topic 3: Putt Reading - The True "Black Art"
      ·   Topic 4: Putting Psych - Stay Here & Now
      ·   Topic 5: Special Problems - Tiers without Tears
      ·   Topic 6: Special Problems - Short Putts
      ·   Topic 7: Special Problems - Lag for Defense
      ·   Topic 8: Special Problems - The Fringe is How Slow?
      ·   Topic 9: Principles for Great Practice
      ·   Topic 10: Goals and Standards for Great Putting
      ·   Topic 11: Putter Selection and Fitting
Topic 1: Tempo and Touch -- Distance Control
Many golfers play the game for a long time before they finally realize that
distance control in putting is more important than stroke technique or
putt reading. This is because the average length of the first putt that most
golfers face is between 20 and 30 feet. Even the golfer with the best
stroke and the best putt reading skills is going to sink only about 1 in 15
of these monsters! Pros on Tour also face a lot of long first putts. It's just
too rare to be able to stick your approach shot inside 10 feet!

Because of this reality, the objective in putting most of the time is to get
the putt REAL close so that the second putt is no more than a tap-in.
Tiger Woods was quoted in his seventh year on Tour as saying that he
had learned to love tap-ins for pars! If the long putt goes in -- and a few
certainly will -- that's great. But you cannot lose sight of the fact that
poor distance control is the surest recipe for three-jacking .

So, how do you get superior "touch"? Tempo, consistent setup and stroke
mechanics, appreciation of green speed through experience, and targeting

Tempo is the total time your stroke takes from start to finish or the time
from top of backstroke to top of throughstroke. Different people have
different tempos, but by far most golfers have a tempo that is too quick.
Relax and slow down! This advice has been around since at least Walter
Hagen in the 1920s, and Bobby Locke swore by this rule. You really don't
need to swat the ball on the green, and a nice smooth tempo is plenty to
roll any ball off any green on earth -- so take it easy. I like to think my
stroke is seen as smooth and graceful. My tempo is nice and relaxed
everyday, and this is more than simply an expression of an easygoing
approach to life and golf. A relaxed tempo is a fundamental reason I putt
well when I'm "on".
Your putter has its own tempo. To see it, just hold the putter in one hand,
move it back some distance, and let it fall. Most putters swing from the
top of the backstroke to the top of the through-stroke in about one full

The smoothest stroke you can have is one that moves by itself. Ben
Crenshaw said it took him decades to learn that the putter moves itself.

Don't let the advice to "accelerate through impact" get you confused.
Every free-flowing stroke is naturally accelerating, so long as you don't let
tension or ill-advised mechanical thoughts interfere with the flow. If you
do, you'll probably decelerate the stroke or flip your wrists through

Consistent setup and stroke mechanics channels the tempo from green to
green and day to day. This makes your tempo consistent.

Appreciating green speed is a skill acquired by experience. But there are
some ideas that can speed you along the way. Shaggy greens are slow,
close-mown greens are fast; wet greens are slow; dry greens are fast;
Bermuda greens are slow; bent greens are fast; and so forth. The color of
the grass, the wind, the temperature, the humidity, the cloud cover, the
shade, the feeling of the carpet beneath your feet, and many other clues
inform your sense of green speed.

These clues are more important than a number (Stimp Meter), because
you really need to assess every green as you come to it.

Your tempo helps you in learning green speed. If the practice green is like
the greens on the course, then a one-foot backstroke with the same
stroke tempo will result in a level roll that is exactly the same length on
each green. Trying a few of these strokes on the practice green in your
pre-round warm-up will teach you the basic unit of length for your putting
on these greens.

Then, adjustments for putts longer or shorter than this basic unit, and for
uphill or downhill or breaking putts, becomes much simpler. And your
distance control will be sharper and more consistent.

Finally, targeting precision puts these other factors fully into play. You
need to assess not only the exact location of the hole in terms of making
a stroke that rolls the ball all the way there, but also assess the surface in
between ball and target, visualize the rolling of the ball across the total
surface in real time, and get a feel for any uphill climbing or downhill
racing that may be involved. You are targeting not only locations, but
paths and energy, speed or sluggishness as well.
Topic 2: Stroke Technique - Roll 'em Straight
"All putts are straight." What that really means is that golfers should
always start their putts off on a straight line, even if the ball breaks
thereafter. What else can you do by hitting a ball with a slab of metal?
Even a cut stroke that initially imparts cut spin to the ball has to roll over
the ground, and this rolling washes the cut spin out, so the ball ends up
rolling in only one direction anyway.

The real issue is how best to start the ball rolling on the line you intend it
to travel on, consistently.

Physics teaches that for a slab of metal such as a putterhead to send the
ball rolling on a straight line, the fewer variables the better.
Fundamentally, the combination of impact point, face angle, and
putterhead path that is simplest for rolling the ball straight is contacting
the ball with the putter's sweetspot so that the putter's sweetspot moves
squarely through the center of the ball on the line you intend. The three
important dimension for straight are "square face" and "center-to-center"
and "online."

The setup and stroke needs to be consistent, not only because consistent
is repeating, but because consistency allows you to learn more sharply
from your ongoing experiences. When you setup and stroke the ball in the
same manner, your feedback relates mostly to touch and putt reading,
and you learn about touch and green reading quicker and better.

The body is a messy contraption. Humans are designed for a wide variety
of movements, as any dancer or acrobat can tell you. That's not all that
good for putting, where simple and repeatedly accurate motions are
needed. Normally, the head doesn't move, the hips and lower body are
stable, and only the shoulders and limbs are in action in a putting stroke.
Again -- whether you are a handsy putter, or an arms putter, or a pure
shoulder putter -- whatever technique you use should be kept simple and

No matter what technique you employ for the stroke, never forget that
the putter's sweetspot needs to impact the back of the ball with the face
square and moving straight through the center of the ball on the intended
line. If your technique doesn't promote this in your putting, then you
should change to something that does.

The setup needs to promote a straight rolling of the ball with the stroke.
The simplest setup starts by placing the putterface squarely behind the
ball, aimed through the center of the ball on the intended starting line to
the target, with the sole of the putter flush with the green surface. Once
the putterface is aimed, then the length and lie of the putter will guide the
placement of your hands on the grip as well as the positioning of your
feet, upper torso, shoulders, and head and eyes. The simplest setup --
assuming a "standard" putter 35 inches long and with a lie angle back off
vertical of 19 degrees (a lie of 71 degrees measured from the ground up
to the shaft) -- has all joint pairs in the body aligned parallel to the
startline of the putt: ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, and wrists.

This setup allows the golfer the benefit of multiple visual and feeling cues
informing where the stroke needs to go to roll the ball down the line of

Golfers have used a variety of setup positions and movement patterns for
the putting stroke. The hanging of the arms requires at least a little
leaning or bending forward of the upper torso, so the arms can swing
back and through without conflict with the chest. Some golfers park one
or two elbows close to the ribs or hips in the way that a guitarist plants
the butt of his strumming hand on the sound board of the guitar, to
reduce extraneous movement and to have a reference during movement
that promotes accuracy.

Golfers who use a shoulder stroke like to keep the "triangle" shape of the
arms, hands, and putter suspended from the shoulderframe "intact" or in
the same shape from start to finish in the stroke. All movement comes
from a simple rocking of the shoulderframe that moves the putter back
and then through. Whatever choice you make, keep an eye on whether
your pattern of setup and movement promotes a square face moving
squarely through the center of the ball down the line.

Ball position matters for rolling straight and for making sure all the
energy of the stroke is consistently transferred to the rolling. In any
stroke pattern, the putter will necessarily rise somewhat on either side of
the bottom of the stroke arc. The bottom is normally in the center of the
stance. If there is any "gating" around the body in the stroke path, then
there will be only a very precise point in the putter's path coming into
impact when the face is really square and moving square to the target.

If the ball is not positioned at this point in the putter path, the ball will not
start off at the target, but will go either outside if the ball is too far back
in the stance or will go inside if the ball is too far forward. For this reason,
many top golfers prefer a shoulder stroke that keeps the putter path
moving on the target line for a substantial distance on either side of the

With this stroke, the only variable to worry about is whether the
putterhead at impact is moving downward, moving level, or rising into the

The preferred path of the putterhead into the ball is one that slightly
rises. So, the ball position needs to be a little bit forward of the bottom of
the stroke arc, or about two inches ahead of the middle of the stance. For
a right-handed golfer, with feet about as far apart as the shoulders, this
ball position places the ball just inside the left heel. The pros typically
send the ball rolling with the sweetspot of the face, but also just a bit
below the midline of the face. This sort of rising impact into the back of
the ball with the lower half of the face sends the ball rolling with full

A helpful way to keep the putter path moving straight is to avoid allowing
the sweetspot to get any farther from or closer to the parallel line across
the toes during the stroke. Some people imagine gliding the elbows along
a parallel rail, or sliding the butt of the hands along a leaning sheet of
plywood, or something similar.

The reason many teachers encourage a "no hands" stroke is to help keep
the putterface in the same orientation to the stroke path at all times. This
way, the putterface will return squarely to impact without the hands
having to do anything special other than stay out of the action. This "dead
hands" approach also helps keep the stroke path in the correct channel.
The biggest flaw in the backstroke is starting the backstroke with the
hands instead of the upper torso as a unit, because the hands often send
the putterhead aslant the putt line and away from the feet. The
putterhead should start back either straight or slightly inside, but not
outwards beyond the putt line. Avoiding crossing the putt line in the
backstroke goes a long way to eliminating odd compensations in the
stroke and helps make solid, square, online contact more natural and

A long-standing "rule" for top golfers in putting is that grip pressure
should be relatively light. Probably a more important "rule" for grip
pressure than this is that once the grip is adopted and the pressure
established in the setup, the pressure should remain constant and
unchanging throughout the stroke. That is, no snatching the putter back,
no subtle tightening on the handle at the start of the downstroke, and no
grabbing on right before impact. Almost always, these sorts of grip
pressure changes do something bad to the putterface or the stroke path.
So, adopt your grip, establish your normal pressure, and then feel in the
stroke that the hands don't tighten (or, more rarely, loosen). Keep the
grip steady.
While the fundamentals of moving the putterface squarely through the
ball down the line are fairly clear, making this happen is at least as
difficult as correctly reading putts, if not the most difficult part of putting.

This brief overview is not adequate to cover all the many subtleties of
what makes a reliable, simple setup and stroke that consistently rolls the
ball where you intend.
Topic 3: Putt Reading - The True "Black Art"
The only putts that are straight are the ones where the green is perfectly
flat and horizontal to gravity, or flat but tilted and the hole is straight
uphill or straight downhill.

First, no green is perfectly horizontal, because the green has to have a
slight tilt at least for proper drainage and healthy grass.

Second, since greens are mowed and walked on all the time, and subject
to the forces of the weather, they really are never truly flat.

Third, of all the 360 compass directions around a putting green's cup,
straight uphill and downhill are only two of the 360, and all the other
approaches into the cup will have some break across a tilted or non-flat
surface. And forth, sometimes grain in the grass is a factor, and grain can
alter the direction of the roll in ways similar to the way gravity causes
break in a ball's path.

In other words, almost every putt has at least some break, and the ball
will not really stay rolling on a straight line except in the rarest of cases.
Putt reading is all about learning to anticipate and imagine the shape and
energy of a rolling ball across these surfaces into the cup.
Many great golfers believe that putt reading cannot be taught, and is
learned by virtue of long experience. But there are some basic ideas that
every golfer can learn and come to rely on for every situation. But "green
reading" is not the same as "putt reading," which is the more important of
the two. There are five key "rules" for reading putts.

The first big "rule" is that the ball's rolling speed at different points along
the putt determines how much the "break" (or gravity from the slope) will
affect its path. At the start of most medium-length or longer putts, the
ball is usually rolling too fast for the tilt of the green and gravity to affect
it much.

More often than not, the ball does not really start "taking the break" until
it is well over halfway to the hole. As the ball begins to slow down near
the hole (as it will, since you have great touch), gravity affects it more
dramatically. Slope on a green is sort of like putting a little turn in the
steering wheel of your car.

How far you get down the road before the "turn" sends the car off the
pavement depends on how fast the car is going forward. So the sharper
curves due to break always come near the end of the putt. Slow greens
make the ball slow down quicker, and also make you start the ball off a
little quicker too to roll far enough across the "slow" green to get to the

This has the curious effect that slow greens generally have less break for
the same slope from the ball to within a foot or so of the hole, but then
right at the cup the more dramatic slowing of the ball can make for some
sharper-than-usual breaking in the last foot or so.

By the same token, fast greens have less slowing effect on the ball, so the
ball's energy pattern from start to finish has a smoother slowing down.
This means that the break "takes" effect a little earlier on fast greens, is
generally bigger, and does not radically get tighter in curvature right at
the cup.

The second big "rule" is that what really, really matters is being able to
roll the ball so that the final piece of its path takes it right into the heart
of the cup. This is true for very long putts, and also for very short putts.
In a sense, putt reading needs to run like a movie in reverse -- get the
end of the putt imagined properly, and the earlier parts have to fall in line
with this. Because you have great touch, the ball will always arrive at the
lip with the same, or nearly the same, drop speed.

How far the ball will roll past the hole if you miss depends upon the
green's speed and other factors, but generally speaking most putts ought
to stop within a foot or two of the hole, sometimes three, and hopefully
not much more except very rarely. A typical good drop speed is about two
or three revolutions per second at the lip. And this "drop speed" is always
the same! So in imagining how the ball will roll and take the break near
the cup, you can pretty much count on this speed at the cup, and that
makes reading the break here a lot easier.

Visualizing exactly how the ball ought to roll into the cup at this speed
allows you to sense the curvature of the path over the last two or three
feet. Working backwards from this critical section, you can imagine the
rest of the putt fairly easily.

There are all sorts of tricks in this, but basically you have to send the ball
across the green surface with the intention of making it arrive into the
final section of the path with the correct drop speed.

The third "rule" is that the fall-line through the cup shapes the final break
more than anything else. The standard advice for reading "greens" (as
opposed to reading a putt) is only relevant to helping you read the putt
itself. If you get a handle on the general tilt of the green as a whole in the
lay of the surrounding terrain, this is helpful but occasionally misleading.
The surface right near the hole may be different from the green's overall
layout. In order to get a precise handle on this surface at the the hole,
you can identify the exact line uphill and downhill that passes through the
cup. Any putt approaching the hole from the side of this fall-line will break
downhill towards the line at the end, regardless of the green's overall
slope or a sense of fall-line through the green as a whole.

To identify this fall-line, stand below the hole and look for the highest
point of ground around the lip, and also look for the axis of tilt
perpendicular to this fall-line so that on either side of the hole on this axis
the ground is the same elevation. Once you see the fall-line through the
cup, you can more accurately imagine the final path of a successful putt
right as it enters the cup.

The fourth "rule" for reading putts is that you can only start the ball
rolling straight out of your setup, so you have to be careful in aiming the
putterface at the start. Imagine a green that tilts down from back to
front, and that you are putting at a cup in the center of the green from 10
feet away to the side halfway from front to back, along the green's axis of
tilt. This putt is ALL break.

That is, aiming directly at the cup, the ball will start breaking
immediately, as soon as it leaves the putter, and the curvature of the
break will get sharper as the ball nears the hole and slows down. Putting
directly at the cup results in the ball rolling way low. The shape of the
path looks a little more like a fish hook than a rainbow. If you visualize
this shape as "hinged" right at the ball's address position, and pivot the
whole curve uphill until the endpoint of the path feeds right into the cup,
then there are two important points about how this translates into aiming
the putterface to start the putt off. First, the "break point" is too low to
serve as your starting target.

The "break point" is that point along the path that is highest up the hill
from a direct line between ball and hole (the "baseline"). But at the break
point the ball is changing direction from going uphill or across the slope to
going downhill or with the break, and right at the "break point" the
direction of the roll is parallel to the baseline. This is as it must be. But to
make the ball correctly "take the break" through this "break point," you
cannot aim "at" the break point to start with, but must aim somewhat

In other words, don't let your imagination of the final section of the putt
path mislead you into aiming too low to start with. Especially on fast
greens, with bigger breaks. The second point concerns how high above
the break point to aim the putterface at address.

If you imagine the curve of the path back from the break point to the
ball's address position, there will necessarily be some change in the path
curvature as the direction of the roll changes from parallel to the baseline
to running uphill from the starting position at address. Once you can see
the shape of the curve between the break point and the ball at address,
this defines how the putterface should be oriented to start the putt off.

If you drew a line through the break point to the fall-line through the cup,
the intersection can serve as a rough "aim spot" for aligning the
putterface to begin with, but actually the correct aim spot will be a little
higher up the fall-line in almost all cases. Commit to this starting direction
in your setup and stroke, and then get back to great touch before pulling
the trigger.

The fifth "rule" for reading putts is that if there is any substantial change
in green contour between the ball and the cup, such as a ridge or swale or
dome or tier, this doesn't change the fact that the last section of the
putt's path is paramount. Negotiating these intervening undulations is still
controlled by making the last path of the putt happen as needs be. So try
to define the undulation as an isolated region with some sort of boundary
that sets it apart from the last section of the surface, even if the real
transition is very gradual, and focus on how the ball needs to exit this
area into the final section so that it goes in the cup. This makes it clearer
how the ball ought to roll through or over the undulation from entrance to
exit, and makes reading the undulation itself more or less a separate

The various technique to help read putts include crouching behind the ball
to see the contour better, stand behind the hole to get a sharper sense of
the final path of the putt and how this feeds back to the breakpoint, stand
halfway along the putt on the low side to examine the distance and the
section of the putt through the break point, and similar well-known

What you are looking for is a feeling for the path and the energy of the
ball as it rolls and slows nearing the cup.
With these "putt reading" rules in mind, you can incorporate "green
reading" rules as a complement. The green reading rules are simple, but
they are all only "generally speaking" rules, and the actual surface
contour is what counts.
Greens are designed first and foremost to support healthy grass. So they
are specialized structures placed into an existing terrain in such a way
that the green "drains" correctly.

If water is allowed to collect on the green or doesn't flow through the
green at the proper rate, the grass suffers. So, generally speaking, almost
all greens have at least some modest slope. Likewise, if the green has too
much slope, the ball will roll off, especially on slick greens. So green slope
is almost always somewhere between these minimum and maximum
slopes. To see the overall drainage pattern built into the green, you can
imagine pouring a giant bucket of water onto the green at various
locations and imagine how the water would run off. Many times, the
surface of the green will be in lobes that drain in different directions,
seemingly at odds with the overall drainage direction of the terrain. But
these many drainage directions are ultimately collected together by
underground pipes that channel the water all together into the terrain's
general drainage flow.

Because of this, if you are standing in the fairway about 100 to 150 yards
out, survey the lay of the land and the green in this context to get a
handle on the terrain's drainage pattern. The terrain's drainage pattern
has been set by eons of erosion, mostly from water. So the terrain almost
always drains towards the nearest pond, creek, river, or the sea. But in
rough terrain, like the mountains, where it would seem the green in
context would drain down the mountain or generally downhill, there is
room for illusion. These terrains are more in flux geologically than other
terrains, and so there is an element of chaos in these regions that may

More often than not, the overall slope of a green is mostly canted back to
front so shots from the fairway can be received. Rarely does the green
slope away from the fairway, as this tends to send approach shots racing
off the back.
In any reading of the green or the putt, it is important to get a sense of
what is truly vertical to gravity and what is horizontal to gravity, no
matter how the surface appears. Water in a pond or lake is always
horizontal to gravity, just like a handy spirit level. Any time a green is
next to a pond, use the pond to get a good read on the green's slope
(which probably leans towards the pond). Local architectural features give
good and bad references to the true vertical. The outlines of substantial
buildings or new houses and their chimneys are vertical, but older wooden
houses may have settled oddly. Trees are never vertical.

The flag is supposed to be vertical, but that depends upon greenkeeper
skill in cutting the hole and seating the flag each morning, on wind
whipping the flag, and on treatment of the flag by previous players. If the
flag aligns vertically with some other true reference, then you're in
business. Regardless of these external references, you carry around with
you an innate sense of what is straight up. This depends upon good
posture and balance, but you really always rely upon this in reading
greens and putts. Reverting to these references to vertical and horizontal
will help sort out difficult or tricky surfaces.
Topic 4: Putting Psych - Stay Here & Now
All sports psychologists agree: to stay in the "Zone," you have to stay in
the "moment." The "moment" is just the "here and now" of playing golf
one shot at a time. There is no future and no past, just this occasion (and
opportunity) to make an excellent golf shot or putt, no matter what the
situation in the round or match, no matter what's at stake, no matter how
difficult the predicament.

Learning to stay in the "here and now" one shot at a time is mostly about
playing "smart golf" in your decision-making for planning what sort of
shot to play (how much risk to take to try a heroic recovery shot from
deep in the rough, for example) and then getting down to the here and
now of executing this shot. The same is true on the putting green.

After you size up the situation, read the surface, and plan the putt, you
have to get out of your thinking head and get down to the physical skills
of making the putt. Once you're at address preparing to pull the trigger,
you should not be thinking at all, and you should definitely not be
worrying either!

The best way to train away thinking and worrying at address is first, to
recognize that it doesn't help at all at this point; second, that it always
hurts the putt to think or worry during the stroke; and third, therefore,
there must be a point in the cycling of your routine when you banish
further thinking or worrying and move on to the level of physically
performing the putt.

Your physical performance is best when the mind is calm.

Part of "smart golf" on the green is not getting greedy and trying for
results above your (or other golfers') ability to pull off. Staring at a
30-footer for birdie and the lead in the closing holes, stay smart and
remember that blowing the putt five feet past and missing the comeback
for bogey will knock you out of contention. Patience always trumps
greediness, as patience is in the here and now facing reality and
greediness is a matter of hope for future outcomes.

"Confidence" is nice, but means different things to different people.
Confidence is not so much a positive attitude or mood as it is an absence
of doubt or worry. Negative thoughts and emotions during putting are the
real culprits in harming performance -- moreso than a positive attitude
assists good performance.

There are two separate ways to get this sort of confidence: know that
your usual technique is the best you can do to give the putt its best
chance of sinking or at worst stopping close for a tap-in, or deluding
yourself with positive self-talk. Both can be effective to dampening down
worry and negativity, but the first way is obviously better. So, learning
what really works and always trying to get better in your technique and
putt reading is the true path to confidence on the green.

Stress and anxiety when facing a tricky putt or when facing a simple putt
that matters a lot interfere with the mind's ability to do what is required
to give the putt its best chance of sinking. Stress or anxiety make the
heart race faster and narrow the brain's ability to focus, perceive, and
carry out smooth movements with your steady tempo.

A great putting pro thinks to himself, if he misses this putt, his dog will
still greet him when he gets home. After all, how many of the earth's 6
billion people know or care about your putt? In the game of golf, keep a
healthy perspective. Since anxiety and stress on the course or on the
green are always self-inflicted handicaps, ask yourself "why do that"?

Regardless, you will certainly find your heart racing and your hands
unsteady on the green, from time to time. What to do then? The best way
to handle this is to breathe deeply and slowly so the stream of breath
enters your nostrils, travels down the back of your chest to your abdomen
(not just stopping in the chest or lungs), and then evenly exhaling.

This pattern of breathing reclaims the cardiovascular system from the
adrenaline-fed chaos, and puts you back in control of your body so you
can get on with doing what needs to be done. In this connection, sticking
with your routine is not simply a comforting, mindless pattern that allows
you to get through the stress on automatic pilot -- it's really what you
know you need to be able to carry off successfully, one step of the routine
at a time progressing smoothly from reading the putt, to setting up, to
executing the stroke. The best approach to stress and anxiety is to stick
with doing what you know needs to happen to make the putt roll into the
Bad results? So what? You still have other shots to make and other putts
to sink, so move on. As Tony Lema says, "Just because I missed that putt
doesn't mean I have to pull my next drive into the woods."
Topic 5: Special Problems - Tiers without Tears
Putting surfaces often have tiers separating one level from another. A tier
is a sharp steepening in slope over a relatively short span that connects a
higher elevation level with a lower level. The difference in elevation is
seldom much more than a foot or two, and the width of the tier is often
not more than three or four feet.

So, roughly speaking, while a green slopes about 2% or 3% usually, a tier
slopes 20% or 30% or more -- a sudden tenfold increase in slope up or
down. And tiers practically always slope in the general direction of slope
of the two levels as well, so you are always putting uphill all the way
going up (including up the tier), or all the way down going down. So not
only are tiers a special problem in themselves, putting up or down tiers is
a magnified case of putting uphill or downhill generally.

It's easy to say that what matters in successfully negotiating a tier is
what happens once the rolling ball gets clear of the top or bottom of the
tier. That's true enough, but the question is how to manage the putt so
the ball leaves the tier behind with the proper speed and direction from
that point forward. To get this right, you need a sense of how the tier
affects the speed and direction of the putt going over the tier.

Tiers affect the speed based on how high the tier is from top to bottom.
Going up a tier, the putt needs all the extra energy it takes to lift / roll
the ball the height from the bottom of the tier to the top edge; and going
down a tier, the putt gains this same amount of roll. If you had a
Stimpmeter ramp, the energy of the rolling ball coming off the ramp is
directly determined by how high the back end of the ramp is lifted before
letting the ball roll down the ramp.

The length of the ramp doesn't matter at all. Intuitively, this means you
can imagine the tier is a ramp and assess how far a ball perched on the
top edge would roll past the bottom edge if pushed off the tier with a
nudge. However far along level green the tier would send the ball past the
bottom is how much of a roll you will need just for the tier itself to get up,
or how much the tier will add to ball speed going down.
Tiers affect the direction of the roll just like any slope.

If your putt is traveling either straight uphill or straight downhill when
crossing the tier, the tier will have no effect. This would really only be the
case when the level of green from which you start the putt is oriented
straight uphill or downhill just like the tier itself. Of the 360 degrees in a
compass, however, straight uphill and straight downhill are only 2 of the
360+ possibilities, so almost all putts across a tier have some break. More
normally, the tier slopes aslant the two levels of green it connects. For
these cases, the tier has its own fall-line, and the putt will inevitably
break towards this fall-line on the tier. Once the putt clears the tier, it will
come again under the influence of the surface on the next level.

So, here are some conclusions for speed control. Going up, assess how
much it takes to get to the top of the tier, and from there, how much it
takes to get the rest of the way to the hole. And don't forget the fact that
the entire putt is very likely uphill all the way to begin with, so you will
probably need to be aggressive.

Going down, assess first whether just letting the putt topple over the top
edge of the tier will send the ball off the bottom too fast so it rolls past
the hole. If so, toppling the ball over the edge is your only option.
Otherwise, if the tier itself only sends the ball part-way to the hole, you
have to send it over the top with the rest of the energy built in. And don't
forget that you are probably going downhill all the way.

For break across a tier, assess the break the tier will give the ball
differently going up versus going down. After all, going up, you are likely
to have a quick climbing pace on the ball, so break won't affect the roll
too much, whereas going down, you are likely to send the ball over the
top edge with only a modest roll that increases going down, and this
allows the slope of the tier to give the ball more break.

Once the likely break is visualized, handling the tier is just picking the
spot where the ball rolls clear and heads to the target, and then working
backwards to find the spot to start the putt into the tier going up or down.
Topic 6: Special Problems - Short Putts
Short putts are tough! The reason seems to be that short putts are short
-- too short -- and this leads to casual or poor targeting as well as flaws
in making the stroke itself. The pros average making 90% at 3 feet, but
at 6 feet this average plummets to a mere 50%. Where'd the 40% of skill
go in this measly 3 feet, a distance no longer than one putter length?

Part of the problem seems to be that from about three feet and in, all
golfers can see the hole while looking down at the ball. This means they
have full stereoscopic vision of the target and the ground over which the
ball must roll, and the connection visually between the ball and path and
hole is pretty clear in mind.

But as the putt distance increases to about 4 or 5 feet, the golfer's nose
blocks vision of the hole when looking down at the ball. From this distance
out, all putts are "long" and have to be treated carefully as such, with the
full aiming and stroke routine every time. And the same as is needed for
a 20-foot putt, your head should stay still on these putts even though you
are "close" to the hole and the temptation to peak during the stroke is
strong. Aim carefully, set the putterface behind the ball carefully as
aimed, and "commit" to making the stroke start this way, even if it breaks

Then the putt is all about touch and commitment. Don't let short putts
make you nervous in the thought that you "should" make them -- instead,
remember that short putts are tough and certainly no guarantee. So take
your time and be careful. Don't pull the trigger until you're ready and
know you've got the putt made.
Topic 7: Special Problems - Lag for Defense
Trying to sink 30- and 40-footers is great, so long as it doesn't cost you a
three-putt. So don't get too greedy, and stay smart. The surest way of
three-putting is to blow the putt too far past the hole -- this is much more
common than leaving the putt way short, even though amateurs often
have this problem. So the best of all worlds is learning how to lag putt
while also giving a serious run at sinking the monster. Long putts are all
about distance control.

The reason putts blow by the hole is that the golfer fears leaving the putt
way short, and this fear causes him or her to quicken the usual tempo. A
putt made with tension in the muscles and with too quick a tempo will
almost always be too short or too long. The best way to lag is to relax.
That's why lagging successfully looks graceful and good lag putters are
said to have great "touch." They relax to lag and stay with their usual
tempo. The phrase "trust it" is similar to the notion of "confidence" --
more important functionally for what it is not.

Trusting your touch on long putts is really NOT getting in your own way
with some "special" way to putt the long ones. Target well and stick with
your tempo.

Since rolling the ball too far past is more common, great lag putters
consider leaving the putt a little short preferable to running the ball by
the hole. Jack Nicklaus uses a target that is a little short of the hole, to
make sure he doesn't blow it by.

Combining lag putting with sinking monsters, then, is sticking with your
touch, targeting well, and tempering your effort with the attitude that a
little short is better than a lot long. This gets the ball all the way to the
hole with a good chance of dropping.
Topic 8: Special Problems - The Fringe is How Slow?
The "fringe" is a swath of grass just off the green that is the same type of
grass as the green, but mowed at a higher height than the green.
Typically, greens are mowed somewhere close to 1/8th of an inch each
day, and the "fringe" is a 1/16th inch or so higher. The "frog hair" is
fairway grass right outside the fringe, and is mowed so it stands a lot
taller than either the green or the fringe.
But remember the "fringe" is not technically part of the green, and a ball
that sits only on the fringe (not touching the green at all), cannot be
marked and lifted. However, the golfer can test the grain and thickness of
the fringe, making a practice stroke on it or otherwise, whereas doing so
on the green proper is illegal. And the flag can be left in the cup, if

The fringe is usually not too wide -- perhaps a couple of feet. So putting
from the fringe itself entails adding only a slight amount of extra speed to
the putt. Roughly speaking, a foot of fringe is worth a foot and a half of
green. Putting from the frog hair just off the green is a different matter.
In many cases, the grass just off the green would "Stimp" at less than
half the speed of the green, unless the weather has been especially dry
and this part of the course is parched. So usually putting across a foot of
this grass off the green is worth two feet or more of the green itself.

Taking all this into account, putting from four feet off the green to a cup
that is four feet in from the 2-foot-wide fringe -- which looks like a
10-foot putt, but is in reality closer to 8 feet of frog hair plus 3 feet of
fringe plus 4 feet of green, or a 15-footer altogether.
Topic 9: Principles for Great Practice
Always be specific in what you practice. Whether you practice touch or
lagging or making a straight stroke or reading breaks, or some other
aspect of your putting game, you have to focus on perfecting that aspect
specifically. This includes practicing on integrating all separate skills into
the total action of the putt, if that's what you choose to work on.

Only work on drills when you know what the drill is supposed to instill in
your putting, so using the drill is purposeful and your feedback
meaningful for that purpose. To be sure, some drills have more than one
purpose, but understanding how the drill should affect your skill is key.
Work on the putts you are likely to face day in and day out.

Typically, amateurs face a lot of first putts around 30 feet or more when
they hit the green in regulation, or putts inside 6 to 10 feet when they
chip on after missing the green in regulation. So it makes sense to
practice lagging long putts and making putts inside 10 feet. Pros aren't
that different, since even though they face a lot of first putts in the 20- to
25-foot range, and often chip from beside the green to inside 4 feet, they
need to practice a lot of 20-footers and a lot of 6-footers to stay in the
hunt. Always practice putting with the same type of balls you play with,
since soft-cover balls putt shorter than hardcover balls.

Using more than two balls for putting practice is a little like cheating, and
encourages you not to worry too much about the first putt but instead to
treat it as a test putt to calibrate for the second and third putts. You really
need to practice making every putt. If you stand in one spot and pull ball
after ball to the same spot for putting, you should be paying attention to
something about the feel of the stroke, instead of whether they are going
in the cup -- from the same spot over and over, they ALL need to go in!

The real quarry here is the feel of a good stroke consistently. Simulating
on-course pressure in practice is always a good idea, but remember that
once you're actually on the course, just putt as if you were on the practice
green -- don't add to the pressure or let the pressure rule you. If you're
the boss, dominate the moss!

Pre-round warm-ups are different from general practice. The purpose of a
warm-up session on the practice green is to hone your tempo and touch
and get a sense of the green speed you will likely face on the course.
Also, try to spot if you have a specific fault or flaw in your putting that
day, and get it fixed if possible, or deal with it on the course.

Making a nice string of short putts right before heading to the tee is
always a good way to take your putting stroke confidently on the course.
Topic 10: Goals and Standards for Great Putting
The total putts per round is not really as important as the ability to get
long putts in or close and to sink putts inside 10 feet consistently. While
the pro "average" for sinking 10-footers is about 1 out of 4 in
competition, don't let this fool you. Your goal is to sink 10 out of 10 at 10
feet -- in practice AND on the course! For long putts, pros almost never
three-putt, and the average is three-putting only once every three

This standard might as well be your goal also, even if it takes you a
considerable time to achieve this goal. Then when you achieve it, replace
it with a more stringent goal and keep improving. Eventually, you will see
that to really go low in scoring, you have to hit greens in regulation and
stick the ball close to the pin so your "scoring club" can shine.

In the meantime, good putting will keep you in the hunt, take pressure off
your long game, and allow you to score and compete even on days of
poor ball striking.
Topic 11: Putter Selection and Fitting
As the saying goes, the dog wags the tails, not the other way around.
Don't let a putter's length and lie and other features dictate your stroke.

Instead, start with sound mechanics in the setup and stroke and get a
putter that fits you and your stroke. Your setup and stroke pattern
determines the length and lie of the putter that works best for you, so
make sure the setup and stroke is sound first, then get fit for a good

If you settle for whatever length and lie is offered stock off the retail
shelf, you are likely to catch a serious case of "average golferitis" because
these specs are designed for the average player with poor putting skills
and a handicap near 20 or 30. Beyond length and lie, a putter should
have good aiming lines, a satisfying overall weight, and a balance that
suits you and your tempo and stroke.

Expensive putters may or may not fit your individual needs, so be open
when trying out putters. Shopping different style putters in the thrift
stores is a good way to test out different performance features on the
cheap. Once you get a putter that fits, keep it until it gets bent or lost or
stolen, unless something clearly better comes your way.
                         Written by Geoff Mangum
                     Geoff Mangums Putting Zone
William Wetere
442 Turere Lane
Te Awamutu
New Zealand
07 870 5209 or 029 870 4477
Email: william@golfinstruction.co.nz
Website: www.golfinstruction.co.nz

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